Kemmel's Top Secret Command Bunker – Heuvelland, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

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Kemmel's Top Secret Command Bunker

A Cold War command center is hidden under an idyllic countryside.  


There were many rumors among the populace, concerning the truth of their being a military installation in Kemmel, Belgium. But while the bunker was suspected by locals, it wasn’t confirmed until very recently.

A kind of local area 51, theories abounded, with among others a very persistent rumor of nuclear devices being stored underground.

The truth is that underneath a small house, which functioned as an air intake and chimney, there is a staircase, with at the end a concrete cube of 30 by 30 meters. Built in 1954, this command center was intended to be the NATO nerve center for the combined Western-European air forces and aerial defenses. As such, it coordinated exercises preparing for the worst case scenario of a nuclear strike by the USSR.

The last exercise involving this command center took place in 1995. Up to 1995, the site was continuously guarded, even though only a select few knew of its existence. Only handpicked men at key positions in the military hierarchy were allowed, as were the 600 men earmarked to run the base in case of emergency. These worked in 3 shifts of 200 men each, reportedly relying on the Ypres barracks.

At the core of the bunker, is the Operation Room, taking up two levels. The walls are covered with massive maps, and symbols to indicate the military positions and the movements of troops. On the upper level, this room was surrounded by offices for the joint staffs, while on the ground floor level, in direct contact with the communication equipment, a theater was arranged for the highest ranking officers. The site has been restored to its original state, with all original equipment, showing the base at the ready.

The site has been recently directed into the hands of the Historical Pool of the Belgian Army, who have fully restored it, and, opened the bunker to the general public in 2010. As such, this is still officially a military site, tended to by military personnel. However, for entry, one can purchase tickets at the downtown Tourist Office. Thus, the mystery has been officially exposed.

Yet, as a small walk on the hill will reveal more areas marked as military, one even sporting a watch tower, it is only to be expected people keep wondering what else may be down there.

Know Before You Go

Get your tickets at VVV Heuvelland, Reningelststraat 11, 8950 Heuvelland - Kemmel, located at the centre of the village of Kemmel. It is best to ask directions from there, as one may easily miss the very small lane, in between two meadows, leading up through the forest, towards the bunker.

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July 8, 2010

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